• So You Got Elected President of Ukraine. Now Comes the Hard Part.

    Nearly two months after his landslide victory, Volodymyr Zelenskyy is beginning to refine his political persona, signal how he will govern, and shape the contours of presidential power.

    With the public, he aims to be a servant of the people: charming, solicitous, and accessible. With bureaucrats, oligarchs, and politicians from the former ruling majority, the tone is closer to enemy of the people, as he rails at functionaries, threatens officials with jail, and demands their immediate resignations.

    In terms of theatre and political messaging, both approaches have been a win for him, but in terms of execution and governance, it is entirely different. Thus far, there is little achievement of which to speak.

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  • If Zelenskyy’s Serious about Reform, He’ll Ditch the Cronies

    Recent polls forecast that President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s political party, Servant of the People, may take 43 percent in Sunday’s parliamentary elections, or 30 percent less than he won in the April presidential race.

    There are more competitors than in the presidential race but another reason has to do with Ihor Kolomoisky.

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  • Rise of the Zelennials: Ukraine’s Parliamentary Elections Signal Generational Shift

    Ukrainians are set to vote out the vast majority of current MPs on July 21 in parliamentary elections that will mark a generational shift in the country’s political landscape and hand unprecedented power to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. The election is a continuation of the ballot box revolution that began earlier this year when almost three-quarters of Ukrainian voters backed forty-one-year-old political novice Zelenskyy for the presidency over his experienced but tainted rival. The message is unmistakable: after almost three decades of chronic corruption and repeated false starts, voters want fundamental change and are willing to gamble with the country’s future in order to get it.

    Polls predict Zelenskyy’s Servant of the People party will secure around 45 percent of votes. Much like Zelenskyy himself, most of the future MPs poised to represent his party in the Rada are unknown, with the list of candidates containing a mix


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  • Ukraine’s Most Important Election Is Sunday. Here's What to Expect

    On July 21, Ukrainians go back to the ballot box to choose a new parliament. In April, voters made comedian and political novice Volodymyr Zelenskyy president. The outcome of Sunday’s parliamentary elections will determine Ukraine’s geopolitical course and policy choices over the next five years. As a long-time Ukraine hand, I offer seven predictions:

    First, Zelenskyy’s popularity is strong and his Servant of the People party will take a near majority. I expect it to win about 120 party-list seats and up to 100 seats in single-mandate districts. (A party needs 226 seats to form a majority.) The Servant of the People brand is lifting many of the party’s candidates in districts and putting them close to victory. The Party of Regions won a record 111 single-mandate seats in 2012. If Servant of the People matches that number, it’ll likely result in an outright majority in the next parliament.

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  • The Politics of Revenge

    The contest for control of Ukraine’s parliament has been just as bitter and divisive as the recent acrimonious presidential race that resulted in a landslide victory for political novice Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Ominously, beneath the surface, the parliamentary battle has been as much about revenge as about transformation.

    This preoccupation with settling scores and seeking to influence the pace and direction of change is an inevitable feature of the major reconfiguration of political forces underway. But there is a danger that if vengeance is allowed to fester, the need for unity and cooperation in the name of the general good will be obscured.

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  • Ukraine House Toronto Highlights Ukraine’s Renaissance

    It is a testament to how far Ukraine has come that its budding filmmakers have turned the 1986 Chernobyl disaster into one of HBO’s most acclaimed television series.

    Ukraine’s blossoming film industry was one of several topics discussed at Ukraine House Toronto last week, where there was a palpable sense that the nation has passed a tipping point and is finally emerging as a modern, dynamic, Western-style democracy with much to contribute to the world.

    In fact, it was Darko Skulsky, one of the co-producers of the hit series, who captured the spirit in an interview at Ukraine House Toronto when he said, “Ukraine is having this renaissance, a boom; the closest thing I can compare it to is Berlin seventeen years ago, where the kids are just taking over.”

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  • How the US Can Fight Russian Disinformation for Real

    For the past three years, I have been on the front lines of the information war, most recently in Ukraine, Lithuania, and Georgia. I have worked alongside, interviewed and briefed policymakers throughout the region, and these experiences have presented a grim picture: the United States is abdicating its leadership in countering Russian disinformation.

    Where we ought to be setting the rules of engagement, the tone, and the moral compass in responding to Russia’s information war, the United States has been a tardy, timid, or tertiary player, with much of our public servants’ good work on this issue stymied by domestic politicization. Disinformation is not a political issue; it is a democratic one.

    Beyond that challenge, the United States has not invested sufficient resources to be competitive in the fight against disinformation. Russian information warfare continues to target the United States and our allies, as well as the rules-based international order. However,


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  • Who Will Be Ukraine’s Next Prime Minister?

    In less than two weeks, Ukraine will hold its most important election of the year. On July 21, Ukrainians will elect a new parliament, which will form a new government. Much rides on the outcome of the race. It will determine whether Ukraine continues down a pro-Western and reform-oriented path or remains mired in the post-Soviet swamp that has held it back since 1991.

    Ukraine is now the poorest country in Europe, even poorer than Moldova; one-fifth of its workforce has gone abroad in search of higher wages and its birthrates are declining. Russia occupies parts of eastern Ukraine and Crimea, and there’s no obvious diplomatic fix to compel Russia to leave. Meanwhile, the country needs a new IMF program focusing on structural reforms as its massive Yanukovych-era debt comes due. The last five years brought some reform but lackluster economic performance, and Ukrainians are justifiably angry; they expect their novice president Volodymyr Zelenskyy to improve their bottom line


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  • Will Zelenskyy Succeed?

    Volodymyr Zelenskyy has been president of Ukraine for more than a month now. He has met the leaders of Canada, France, and Germany, and made a number of moves, from dismissing the parliament and calling for early elections to rebuffing Vladimir Putin’s talk of giving Russian passports to Ukrainian citizens.

    In less than two weeks, Zelenskyy’s new political party is likely to sweep the July 21 parliamentary elections, giving Zelenskyy and his party unprecedented control of the presidency and the next government. 

    While Zelenskyy and his party look terrifically strong after trouncing the incumbent by a nearly three to one margin, the new president’s political position remains extremely fragile as he faces more challenges and pressure than his predecessors did.   

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  • Zelenskyy Shines in Toronto, but His Plans Need Right People and Right Priorities

    On July 2-4, the government of Canada hosted the third Ukraine Reform Conference in Toronto. The previous two were held in London and Copenhagen. The first day was devoted to ministerial events, while the second and third days were hosted by Ukraine House, a non-governmental organization supported by several foundations. These conferences are designed to offer support for Ukraine and its reforms, showcasing the country’s achievements while indicating priority reforms.

    This was a massive international manifestation in support of Ukraine with the participation of some forty countries. Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland were the hosts to some 500 guests. The foremost guest was newly-elected Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and half a dozen Ukrainian ministers participated. About ten foreign ministers attended, notably from Sweden, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Hungary.


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